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Zsh Autoswitch Python Virtualenv

ZSH plugin to automatically switch python virtualenvs (including pipenv and poetry) as you move between directories

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zsh-autoswitch-virtualenv is a simple and quick ZSH plugin that switches python virtualenvs automatically as you move between directories.

zsh-autoswitch-virtualenv also automatically detects and activates your Pipenv and Poetry projects without any setup necessary.

autoswitch-virtualenv requires virtualenv <>__ to be installed. You will also need to make sure that python (without a suffix; both Python 2 and 3 are supported) is available in your $PATH.

How it Works

Simply call the mkvenv command in the directory you wish to setup a virtual environment. A virtual environment specific to that folder will now activate every time you enter it.

zsh-autoswitch-virtualenv will detect python projects and remind you to create a virtual environment. This mainly occurs if one of the following is found in current the directory:

  • requirements.txt
  • Pipfile
  • poetry.lock

To create a virtual environment for that project, simply run mkvenv. This command works as expected for all popular python project types (virtualenvs, pipenv and poetry).

More Details

Moving out of the directory will automatically deactivate the virtual environment. However you can also switch to a default python virtual environment instead by setting the AUTOSWITCH_DEFAULTENV environment variable.

Internally this plugin simply works by creating a file named .venv which contains the name of the virtual environment created (which is the same name as the current directory but can be edited if needed). There is then a precommand hook that looks for a .venv file and switches to the name specified if one is found.

Autoswitch virtualenv also works automatically with projects which contains a .venv virtualenv directly created by the python -m venv command.

For the case of pipenv projects, the plugin will look for a Pipfile and activates pipenv if it detects an existing virtual environment for it.

For the case of poetry projects, the plugin will look for a pyproject.toml and activates poetry if it detects an existing virtual environment for it.

NOTE: you may want to add .venv to your .gitignore in git projects (or equivalent file for the Version Control you are using).

Pipenv and Poetry Integration

This plugin will also detect and auto activate virtualenvs made with pipenv or poetry. No action needs to be performed in projects where a poetry/pipenv project has already been setup.



Setup a new python project with autoswitching using the mkvenv helper command.

$ cd my-python-project
$ mkvenv
Creating my-python-project virtualenv
Found a requirements.txt. Install? [y/N]:
Collecting requests (from -r requirements.txt (line 1))
    Using cached requests-2.11.1-py2.py3-none-any.whl
Installing collected packages: requests
Successfully installed requests-2.11.1

This command also works as expected with both poetry and pipenv.

Optionally, you can specify the python binary to use for this virtual environment

$ mkvenv --python=/usr/bin/python3

In fact any parameters passed to mkvenv will be passed to the relevant setup command. The same applies to passing additional parameters to pipenv install and poetry install.

Autoswitching is smart enough to detect that you have traversed to a project subdirectory. So your virtualenv will not be deactivated if you enter a subdirectory.

$ cd my-python-project
Switching virtualenv: my-python-project  [Python 3.4.3+]
$ cd src
$ # Notice how this has not deactivated the project virtualenv
$ cd ../..
Switching virtualenv: mydefaultenv  [Python 3.4.3+]
$ # exited the project parent folder, so the virtualenv is now deactivated


You can remove the virtual environment for a directory you are currently in using the rmvenv helper function:

$ cd my-python-project
$ rmvenv
Switching virtualenv: mydefaultenv  [Python 2.7.12]
Removing myproject...

This will delete the virtual environment in .venv and remove the .venv file itself. The rmvenv command will fail if there is no .venv file in the current directory:

$ cd my-non-python-project
$ rmvenv
No .venv file in the current directory!

Similar to mkvenv, the rmvenv command also works as you would expect with removing poetry and pipenv projects.


Temporarily disables autoswitching of virtualenvs when moving between directories.


Re-enable autoswitching of virtualenvs (if it was previously disabled).

Security Warnings

zsh-autoswitch-virtualenv will warn you and refuse to activate a virtual environment automatically in the following situations:

  • You are not the owner of the .venv file found in a directory.
  • The .venv file has weak permissions. I.e. it is writable by other users on the system.

In both cases, the warnings should explain how to fix the problem.

These are security measures that prevents other, potentially malicious users, from switching you to a virtual environment you did not want to switch to.